The origins of Indian classical music can be found from the oldest of scriptures, the Vedas, especially the Samaveda, describes music at length. Indian classical music has its origins as a meditation tool for attaining self realization. All different forms of these melodies (Ragas) are believed to affect various “chakras” (energy centers, or “moods”) in the path of the “Kundalini”. The hymns of the Samaveda, Samagana established its first principles. Priests involved in these ritual chants were called Samans and a number of ancient musical instruments such as conch (shankh), lute (veena), flute (bansuri), trumptets and horns were associated with this and latter practices of ritual singing.
The major vocal forms-cum-styles associated with Hindustani classical music are dhrupad, khayal, and thumri. Other forms include the dhamar, tarana, trivat, chaiti, kajari, tappa, tapkhayal, ashtapadi, ghazal and bhajan. Of these, some forms fall within the crossover to folk or semi-classical (‘light’ classical) music, as they often do not adhere to the rigorous rules and regulations of ‘pure’ classical music.The veena, a string instrument, was traditionally regarded as the most important, but few play it today and it has largely been superseded by its cousins the sitar and the sarod, both of which owe their origin to Persian influences.
Other plucked/struck string instruments include the surbahar, sursringar, santoor and various versions of the slide guitar. Among bowed instruments, the sarangi, esraj (or dilruba) and violin are popular. The bansuri (bamboo flute), shehnai , harmonium,samvadini are important wind instruments. In the percussion ensemble, the tabla and the pakhavaj are the most popular.The advent of Islamic rule under the Delhi Sultanate and later the Mughal Empire over northern India caused considerable cultural interchange. Increasingly, musicians received patronage in the courts of the new rulers, who in their turn, started taking increasing interest in local music forms.
The initial generations may have been rooted in a cultural traditions outside India, gradually, they adopted many aspects from their kingdoms which retained the traditional Hindu culture. This helped spur the fusion of Hindu and Muslim ideas to bring forth new forms of musical synthesis like qawwali and khayal.Much of the musical forms innovated by these pioneers merged with the Hindu tradition, composed in the popular language of the people (as opposed to Sanskrit) in the work of composers like Kabir or Nanak. This can be seen as part of a larger Bhakti tradition, (strongly related to the Vaishnavite movement) which remained influential across several centuries; notable figures include Jayadeva (11th century), Vidyapati (1375 AD), Chandidas (14th-15th century), and Meerabai (1555-1603 AD).
In the 20th century, the power of the maharajahs and nawabs declined, and so did their patronage. With the expulsion of Wajid Ali Shah to Calcutta after 1857, the Lucknavi musical tradition came to influence the music of renaissance Bengal, giving rise to the tradition of Ragpradhan gan around the turn of the century. In modern times, the government-run All India Radio and Radio Pakistan helped to bring the artists in front of the public, countering the loss of the patronage system. The first star was Gauhar Jan, whose career was born out of Fred Gaisberg’s first recordings of Indian music in 1902. With the advance of films and other public media, musicians started to make their living through public performances. With exposure to Western music, some of these melodies also started merging with classical forms, especially in the stream of popular music